Little inside knowledge is a good and dangerous thing

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was a normal news day way back in 1997 when the call came through around lunchtime to the RTÉ desk. Not unusually, it was Charlie Bird ringing with a breathless update; rather more surprisingly it was Colm Murray who answered, because that wasn’t his job.

Fate would later determine that the two colleagues and great friends would both die of the one awful disease, motor neurone, but back then they had a shared passion for two things – their work and politics.

Colm only happened to be passing the ringing phone on the empty desk and he answered it out of politeness to find a breathless Charlie on the other end.

In this world before mobiles, RTÉ’s Chief News Correspondent was out covering what was expected to be little more than a coronation of Albert Reynolds as Fianna Fáil’s nominee to contest the Presidency of Ireland as Mary Robinson moved on to other things.

If the former Taoiseach faced any challenge at all, it was likely to be from Michael O’Kennedy, the Tipperary man who served the country well as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Nobody really saw Mary McAleese – a woman who’d also walked the corridors of RTÉ during her life as a current affairs presenter – as a potential threat, but the success of our first female President meant she at least merited consideration.

The story was later told in her biography that she was nearly a non-runner before she’d even entered the fray – because protocol dictated that she required both a proposer and seconder from within the Parliamentary Party before she could even address the meeting.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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